by Gabino Iglesias
I met Mark Rapacz the same way I’ve met a bunch of cool people: he had a book out there I wanted to review. City Kaiju turned out to be a lot of fun and I was wondering what else Mark could be cooking. A few months later, the mailman brought me an answer to that, and it was something so cool it made me ask Mark to show me his shelves. Get ready for some books and some toilets.
Who are you and what role do books play in your life?
Whoa. Who am I?
Nearly three years ago I moved to California and for anybody new to the state they give you this really weird gift basket. In it is a bottle of Napa wine, a hunk of cheese that isn’t as good as Wisconsin’s (hard for a Minnesotan to admit), and a therapist.
So, my therapist and I have been working on this question, “Who am I?” for over a year. Outside the context of self-affirmations, positive thinking, and quasi-spiritual advice that has me twisting my leg over my head and straining my groin (it cures anxiety!), I’m a writer, editor and designer.
Depending on my mood and time of the year, I spend more time working in one of these creative modes than others, and it’s impossible to do them all at the same time. When you try to do all three, you just end up spending more time with the Gift Basket Therapist, doing more stretches and breathing exercises, and obsessing about resource inequality issues in the Bay Area, which Gene never thinks is on point because it’s not specifically about my issues.
What I’m saying is that books are sort of like yoga, only easier on your ass muscles.
Tell me who your favorite kaiju is, and then what book you would give him or her as a birthday gift.
My favorite kaiju is Gamera because he’s a giant tortoise and can fly by pulling his arms, legs, head, and tail into his shell and shooting jets of flames out his arm/leg holes, which makes him dart around like a flying saucer. He can also fly like a rocket—depending, you know, on the circumstance.
I like the symbolism behind Gamera and turtles and tortoises in general—that of a protector of some kind. Sometimes they protect nature, sometimes humanity, sometimes they’re guardians by virtue of being creators of the universe. It depends on what folklore you’re looking at. Gamera actually has connections with the Black Tortoise, or guardian spirit of the north—of the winter season— which could also mean the protector of death.
Being from the cold wastelands of Minneapolis, I like that connection because it allows me to daily judge these weenies in California who think 65 degrees is cold. There’s also something about being from a place where death is a totally reasonable outcome if you get locked out of your apartment at the wrong time of year. This teaches you humility (in a mind-blowing awesome way).
I like the pace of turtles and their connection with peace and longevity—their depiction as beings who were here long before us and will be long after. It puts the human life span, and by extension our obsession with ourselves, in perspective.
I mean, I think writers are clinically self-deprecating, so turtles probably aren’t the healthiest choice of spirit animal—maybe, like, a penguin in a Hawaiian shirt might be better—but … I don’t know what I’m trying to say. The Kardashians should maybe get a pet box turtle and give it some dumb Hollywood name. It might make them come off as more human that way.
I’ve also always had an obsession with turtles and tortoises. I’ve been known to write about them (here and here). I have a huge ceramic turtle collection and have planned a number of vacations to the Galapagos that my wife and I cannot afford. Costa Rica has some service vacations where you can help sea turtle hatchlings into the ocean. Always wanted to do that, but have been reluctant because it might affect my reputation in the writing world as the consummate badassthatIam. Like, I can do over ten pull-ups, I own a BB gun,and I have read a number of David James Keaton’s Facebook posts about violent movies.
If Gamera flying-saucered to my apartment right now, I’d tell him to read the first and most amazing book of American kaiju fiction: Moby Dick.
Then I’d show him my small stack of City Kaijus (the kaiju book I wrote) and guilt him into finally writing that Amazon review he promised. Or, I’d ask him to just plasma blast every copy because that would probably be a better promotional tactic than the review.
Your shelves look like mine, which is to say packed and groaning under the weight of too many books. Is there a method to your madness? What makes you buy a book? The cover of City Kaiju is awesome. Do you think covers sell books?
I usually just see what mastermind and pulp aficionado Craig T. McNeely is reading and buy whatever he tells me to. Or, I read your [Gabino Iglesias’] reviews. I’ve bought plenty that way. I follow Anthony Neil Smith and whenever he says he has a book coming out, I buy it. I do the same thing with Mike Miner’s books. Basically All Due Respect anything right now is a sure bet. Sometimes David Oppegaard goes insane at two in the morning and sends me a draft of one of his works-in-progess to proof. I really like that. Always love seeing a book before it officially comes out.
Covers by Matthew Revert, Dyer Wilk, and Eric Beetner sell books.
How would you describe Blastgun Books in 27 words?
Blastgun Books is releasing TA Wardrope’s book of sci fi kaplow, Arcadian Gates, on March 17. Pre-order now.
What’s your latest book about (tell us about its history too!) and why should folks go get it immediately?
My latest book is called Les Toilettes d’ Alcatraz. It is an ultra-serious look at the depravity of federal incarceration through the lens of Instagram filters. It has writings about life and love, including poetry, essays, captions, and diatribes that will, more or less, save your soul the moment you crack its spine.
Actually, if you don’t buy this book of amazing photographs and musings, you will be complicit in your Eternal Existence on the Wheel of Want and Suffering, and you will never break free to become a Hermitbird of the Cosmos, flying into the heavens on a Rainbow Trail of Maniacal Bliss.
So, a billion years down the road when it’s just you and Gamera on some hunk of lava stone in a sea of fire somewhere out in the worst parts of the Multiverse and Gamera is about to plasma blast your soul nuts off for the duration of another ice age, you’ll only have yourself to blame.
Don’t have your soul nuts blasted off by a turtle god. Buy this book now.
Gabino Iglesias is a writer, journalist, and book reviewer living in Austin, TX. He’s the author of Gutmouth and a few other things no one will ever read. You can find him on Twitter at@Gabino_Iglesias